I’ve just finished a YA contemporary fantasy book I really want to tell you about. It’s “The Rest of Us Just Live Here” by Patrick Ness, and the reason I want to speak about it is that it is so different to a lot that I’ve read lately in this genre.
By different, I mean it turns the “chosen one” concept on its head. Big time. The blurb on the back of the book starts with, “Not everyone has to be the chosen one”, and how right Ness is.
The chosen ones (called the Indie kids) deal with supernatural attacks in the background (previously from vampire and soul-eating ghosts, and now from some group known as the Immortals). The real story of this novel is how the regular guys deal with everyday life, every bit as interesting and important, while these attacks occur in the peripheral. Ness successfully flips the priority by only allowing a short outline at the start of each chapter to explain what is going on in paranormal battle. The body of each chapter is about the main character, seventeen-year-old Mikey, and his family and friends. Only the occasional peep into the happenings of the Indie kids is allowed during the main narrative, and only when it threatens to, and eventually does, cross over into Mikey’s life.
Mikey, himself, suffers from major anxiety, his sister nearly died from an eating disorder, his mother is obsessed with entering politics, and his father’s a drunk. Add to this the fact that Mikey’s confused about his feelings for his best friend, Jared, and a pretty childhood friend, Henna, and he’s got a lot on his mind – and his mind doesn’t deal well with it all.
My favourite chapter is when Mikey returns to see his therapist. The dialogue between the two is insightful, and highlights the pressures teenagers can feel about who they are and how they fit into their peer group and the wider world. However, I didn’t find it preachy, as it plays a part in a decision Mikey makes at the end. There’s no action in the traditional sense in this chapter (not like when Mikey’s group flee from approaching pairs of mysterious blue eyes…) but it had my eyes riveted to the pages just the same.
“The Rest of Us Just Live Here” is funny in parts, slightly satirical in others, and downright touching in most. It highlights that real life is here and now, and can be just as hard and scary as anything superheroes must contend with. I could tell you more but that would give too much away. Let’s just say you should read it to find out…
Now I’d like to read the Indie kids’ version of this story, even though I know how it ends. Please, Mr. Ness?
Until next time, happy writing (and reading),